Being in day care may take its toll on children's waistlines, a new study suggests.
Children who attended day care between ages 1 and 4 were 65 percent more likely to be overweight or obese between ages 4 and 10, compared with those who were in their parents' care before age 4, the study showed.
"Consideration of nutrition and physical activity in child care arrangements may be worthwhile for developing child care programs and policies that would be better adapted to children’s needs," the researchers wrote in their study, published online Nov. 8 in the Journal of Pediatrics.
Children who were in the care of a family member other than their parents were also more likely to be overweight or obese, but the link was not as strong, the researchers found.
The researchers at the University of Montreal gathered data from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development on 1,600 children born in 1997 and 1998, and tracked them over 10 years. Among the children in the study, 30 percent of the children were in day care, and 19 percent were cared for by their parents. Other children were in the care of nannies, other nonrelatives, or family members other than their parents.
The link between being in day care and being overweight or obese held when the researchers took into account factors such as the mothers' employment status, the parents' income level, breast-feeding and body mass index of the mother, according to the study.
The results are in line with those of previous studies, the researchers said. One study of 16,000 U.S. children found that kids cared for by a relative, friend or neighbor in the year before kindergarten were 30 percent more likely to be obese in kindergarten than children cared for by their parents.
It's not exactly clear why kids in day care may be at higher risk of being overweight or obese, but future studies should investigate this, the researchers said.
"I suggest to parents they ensure their children eat well and get enough physical activity, whether at home or at day care," study researcher Jean Séguin, of the University of Montreal, said in a statement.
The researchers said that day care policies have the potential to reduce weight problems in children, possibly through the promotion of physical activity and healthy eating.
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